Saturday, November 5, 2011

What was Australia's biggest corporate collapse?

The Senate this week released the report of its inquiry into The impacts of supermarket price decisions on the dairy industry. Queensland dairy farmers are not happy with the report which basically backs the milk consumer as the winner. A sentiment previously supported here at loose change.

An interesting post on this at Club Troppo caught my attention: The farm lobby, bloodied - but probably unbowed:

It’s amazing that farmers’ complaints on this issue were ever taken seriously. Indeed, the obvious takeaway from the report is that people in the farming business are all too ready to point to economic and regulatory issues that don’t actually exist. Were farm groups embarrassed by any of this? Not a bit. They reacted as they so frequently do, posing at the same time as rugged individualists and pitiable victims of capitalist forces beyond their control.
Troppo also points to a recently published book, Breaking The Sheep's Back, by Charles Massey. Massey has a background in the wool industry and has written a detailed account of the industry's decline. He has estimated that the collapse of the wool reserve price scheme "precipitated what, in today's monetary values, stands as the biggest corporate-business disaster in Australian history" 

Reviews of the book can be found at the SMH: Shrunken industry fleeced by politics and greed, and also by historian Ross Fitzgerald at The Oz: How an industry got fleeced:

Massy's fascinating expose demonstrates with considerable force the unforeseen effects that key ideas about "helping" an iconic industry via staunch protectionism, tariff walls, and other government interventions, have had in the not too recent past.
Fitzgerald's description of Wool Board chairmann William Gunn as "energetic but fundamentally wrong headed" is a description that could equally apply to some more prominently outspoken agrarian socialist politicians today.


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